Mosharraf owns a rickshaw garage on a major thoroughfare next to Pragati Industries Limited Bangladesh factory in the Tejgaon area. Around 60 rickshaws, waiting to be rented out, are lined up on the footpath as well as the road in front. As a result, whenever vehicular movement on the road increases, vehicles get stuck at this point on the road.
And there is no end to this mess.
"Police evict us on a regular basis. But when they go away, we set up shop again," said the 50-something Mosharraf, who started the garage some 20 years ago. According to Mosharraf, there are more than 200 rickshaw garages in the Tejgaon area alone.
Rickshaw garages are usually set up on the outskirts of the city. But Tejgaon Industrial Area is the exception, which has become a hub for rickshaw garages at the heart of the city. In this neighbourhood, there are rickshaw and rickshaw van garages on each and every road.
Unlike Mosharraf, some of the occupiers do see the problems they are creating.
"If I say pedestrians do not find it difficult to walk on the footpath because of the rickshaws, I would be wrong," said Nur Mohammad, while lining up his rickshaws on the newly renovated 12-feet wide footpath in front of the Department of Telecommunication.
The area has also become an illegal parking lot for vehicles belonging to commercial buildings, particularly the newly-built ones, which further narrows the streets and causes gridlocks.
What led us here?
Tejgaon was not at the centre of Dhaka city when it was developed as an industrial area. In the 1950s, the Public Works Department took the initiative of developing an industrial area on 500 acres of land. And the chosen Tejgaon area, at the time, was in the north end of Dhaka city.
Later, the first Master Plan of Dhaka outlined in 1959 also favoured industrial development in the Tejgaon area. And then, the Dhaka Improvement Trust (DIT) planned Tejgaon as a light industrial hub in 1968.
Soon after the Liberation War, Tejgaon became a major site for industrial activities to meet the surging demand of the growing population. But things turned out differently from how it was originally planned.
Then only a few years ago, the government had taken a decision to develop the area as a commercial cum residential hub. And now the area has been seeing an increasing number of commercial buildings including television channels as well as private institutions besides the government agency offices.
What do the authorities have to say?
The demand for space has also risen in the area creating more and more traffic. The commercial buildings have illegally occupied their front sides for parking vehicles.
When asked, Safiullah Safi, the ward councillor of the area said that he was also facing problems due to the rickshaw garage in the area. According to him, the police evict the rickshaw garages every now and then, but they set up the garages once again.
"The mayor said that licences will be given to rickshaws and then the number of rickshaws will come down," said Safiullah Safi, adding that illegal parking of vehicles on the roads in the industrial area also creates problems.
Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) officials said that when the industry was developed, the number of plots was 405, and now the number of plots stands at 428. Among them, 166 are government plots and the rest are private.
As the government decided not to allow any new industries to open in the area, Rajuk has kept the area as a mixed one. Rajuk town planner Ashraful Islam, who is also the project director of the Detailed Area Plan (DAP), said that the Tejgaon Industrial Area has been marked as a mixed area in the draft Detail Area Plan (DAP).
One unique thing is that the plot size in the Tejgaon Industrial Area is large. Rajuk officials said that the minimum plot size in the area is one bigha while the maximum plot size is as large as 91 bighas.
However, town planners think that the mismanagement of the area by the city authority is behind the mess.
Planner Professor Adil Mohammed Khan, executive director of the Institute for Planning and Development (IPD), said that mismanagement of the area has been having a negative impact on the roads in the area. The commercial buildings worsen the situation by allowing vehicle parking on the roads illegally.
"The city corporation should have dealt with illegal parking. The authorities should take action," said Adil Mohammed Khan. "Otherwise, the situation will be worse in the near future."
However, the city authority said that they have been trying to keep the footpath in good shape by evicting the rickshaw garages.
Dhaka North City Corporation Mayor Atiqul Islam said that after evictions, the rickshaw garages switch over from one road to another.
"If we fail to come up with a holistic solution, this will continue to happen," said Mayor Atiqul.
He said that they have already been discussing with DMP about introducing smart car parking facilities in the city like those available in foreign countries. The city authority is now identifying roads where private cars can be parked.
"All over the world, the local government provides car parking facilities and generates revenue. We want to digitalise the system," said Mayor Atiqul.
"We have seen in the past that whoever we lease the spaces to, gets involved in extortion. We believe we can launch the system after Eid," said Mayor Atiqul.
He believes that in the new system, car owners can see which places are vacant for parking. And the driver can pay the parking fee online. "If we can do it, then gradually people will come on board," he said.
Regarding the rickshaw garage, he said that they will start providing licences for rickshaws soon. He also said that there are only 28,000 licensed rickshaws in the metropolitan city. But the number of illegal rickshaws is 14 lakh.
"I cannot evict the rickshaw garages today even if I wish. But we are evicting them and they are shifting the garage to another road," said Mayor Atiqul, "When we will give them the licence we will tell them where they can park the rickshaws. We cannot hold them responsible now."
The Tejgaon Industrial Area falls under the constituency of home minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal.
When asked, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal also agreed that the Tejgaon Industrial Area has become a rickshaw, bus and truck garage. "You will see that at night, they park the buses and trucks on the roads. As the Mohakhali bus terminal does not have enough space, the roads are flooded with these buses," said Home Minister Asaduzzaman.
He said that there are thousands of rickshaw garages in the Tejgaon Industrial Area. He believes the problems will not go away until the bus terminal problems are solved.
He also seemed to be helpless. "If I shut the illegal garages, these rickshaw pullers will burn my effigy. Did you get my point?' said Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal.
"There are lots of things involved with the garages. We will have to make arrangements for their employment. He said that the rickshaw garages have become concentrated in the Tejgaon Industrial Area," the minister added.
He said that the government has been considering alternative measures for the rickshaws.
"We will remove the rickshaws from the city gradually. When the rickshaws go, the garages will automatically go away," said Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal.